KEEPING IT REAL….Yesterday I had a party for a bunch of local liberal bloggers (plus Susie Madrak, who was in town), and an interesting question arose. It’s not a new question, mind you, but still an interesting one. Here it is.
Everyone at the table seemed to agree that the Democratic Party was out of touch with the working class in America, broadly defined. Why? Because Dem leaders are a bunch of college-educated elites who make a lot of money and don’t really identify with the problems of people who make $30,000 a year.
OK, fine. Let’s suppose that’s true. But the Democratic Party in the 30s and 40s was mostly headed by Harvard-educated rich guys, and they seemed to do pretty well on working class issues. FDR wasn’t exactly a prole, after all. So what’s the difference?
The most common response was: unions. Back in the 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s), unions were big and powerful and had a seat at the table. Democratic politicians listened to them, and the upper ranks of the party had plenty of people who grew up in union households. Basically, unions kept it real for everyone else.
Today, public sector unions are still powerful, but private sector unions are a shell of their former selves. Result: labor concerns are marginalized, and there’s no one to really force party leaders to pay attention to working class issues.
So here’s my question: Assuming there’s some truth to this, is the answer (a) we need to work to rebuild the size and power of private sector unions in America so that the working class has a powerful champion? Or (b) is this a hopeless task given the realities of the modern economy? Should we instead figure out some completely different way of forcing the party to pay more attention to working class/middle class economic issues?
I don’t think anybody liked my question, because the conversation sort of meandered on to other topics at that point. Anybody have any bright ideas?